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North Eastern Railway Engine Sheds

John F. Addyman, North Eastern Railway Association, 2020, £24.95

Book review

Experienced publishers will tell you that the standard of railway research is higher than ever, but so is the volume of inaccurate and plagiarised boloney, often by one-man-band authors seeking to make a fast buck. Here, however, is a book at the very highest level, A4 size and casebound comprising 216 pages with colour available on every page, the images ranging from normal b&w pictures to reproduction of pen and ink drawings in colour that are so beautiful as to be works of art. The period covered is from the beginning of the steam era to its end in the 1960s, plus what may be called recent events, because quite a few former steam sheds survive to the present day. Produced entirely by members of the North Eastern Railway Association (NERA), it is accredited to the President, John Addyman, and shows what can be done by teamwork. And that there was more to railways than the good ol' choo-choo by describing the human aspects, and placing it all in a chronological frame so the reader can see the evolution of practices, ranging from aspects of design to the men's duties. There are three sections, presented as Chapters:

1 - Some Notes on Engine Sheds

This subdivides into 20 sub-chapters which cover the various structures, not just the running shed but turntables, sand furnaces and so on. Each part contains a history of how aspects developed over time. This is fascinating to read: a real insight to how things were set up and operated. I hadn't previously realised that there were more roundhouses on the NER than anywhere else in the UK. The reasons are given but, tactfully, it's not pointed out that in this regard the NER was the most modern railway.

2 - Pay and Conditions

These aspects tend not to be noticed by many railway enthusiasts, least of all by people who struggle to look back from modern times not just to, for example, the Big Four era nor even the pre-Grouping scene, but to the earliest days of industrialisation when rural people moved to the cities in search of better paid work. This book pulls no punches anywhere and notes how men were employed for up to, and even over 72 hrs. per week, and that a continuous spell of work for 25 hrs. could lead to accidents.

3 - Gazetteer of the NER's Engine Sheds

This chapter kicks off on p.28 and covers all the sheds in alphabetical order. There is a helpful map on the rear cover of the region and its engine sheds which shows perfectly what was where. The greatest density of sheds was around the coalfields and conurbations, of course, but there were concentrations in the cities and many small sheds along what might be called minor lines, modellers will be pleased to see.

The account for each shed covers a page or so, rising to half a dozen for the larger ones. At times one wishes there were more illustrations but every book has its limits and no book can say or show all that is known to man. And what is shown is spell-bindingly beautiful.There's a historical account of how each site developed over the years, a colour pen and ink drawing of the layout and facilities, other plans, and illustrations from the earliest days to BR, and in several cases, to the present day.

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Pages 112-113 from the sub-chapter about Neville Hill.

Click on the image for an enlargement

A good example concerns Leeds. Most people know about Neville Hill, which is still a going concern today. But that was not opened until 1904 and the book describes its three predecessors. One of them, called here Leeds Holbeck (I prefer Leeds Holbeck Wellington Road) is known to me from childhood when one of the former roundhouses used to be a car showroom. In fact, two of its three roundhouses are still there, along with some of the ancillary buildings. What a heritage! It is also pleasing to see, unlike in much else that has been published, accurate dates and absence of guesswork where they are not available. Neville Hill receives five pages including a modern view from the air. Only missing are views of the concrete coaling stage and some of the lesser facilities but as I've already touched on, and with almost 90 sheds to describe, the coverage is still superb.

Two appendices complete the book, covering personal experiences and breakdown cranes.

Conclusions

This is an outstanding book and a good reference re the steam era. Highly recommended. Available from NERA via its website (see Useful Links).

30-10-20

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